I may be in the minority here but I am extremely bummed about this recent spell of warm weather. If it is going to be winter it might as well be winter, and I would like to be out there making the most of it. But it is hard to be too bummed about being on the ice before Christmas in Michigan. It just sucks we will be starting from scratch again next week.
First ice did not disappoint however. West Michigan is mostly big water but there are still places that freeze quickly. They definitely aren't secrets so you can expect company but you can also expect some awesome fishing. Our first trip was going to be in a sight fishing spot north of Muskegon. It was also going to be a big test of the Clam Vista Link Thermal Stealth. The big advantage to the stealth is it is blacked out all the way, which is ideal for sight fishing. Since it is so dark in the shanty all the light under the ice really shows through and seeing bluegills sucking in tiny jigs was easy.
This was also going to be my first time fishing out of a HUB style shanty. The thing is huge (6X6) and while it was a little tight we fit 4 people in there. Also gear, heater, extra bucket, and 25 fish in each corner. The fishing was spectacular, we had good friends of ours Eric and Gabbi Traver. On everyone's first drop we all pulled up bluegills in unison, starting out with a quadruple isn't bad! One thing that really seemed to help was the Clam The Drop XL jig. For some reason the fish in this area really prefer a tiny jig, I'm not sure if it is a size thing or a rate of fall. But that is what they like and that is what we feed them. Often on a big bluegill with a standard jig hook, the hook will just follow the bait out of the fishes mouth on a hookset. The XL hook fixed that problem and some big gills paid the price. One of the things I find weird about the tiny jig there is they will eat a big package like a Clam Maki plastic without hesitation. But a big jig tipped with spikes doesn't work well at all.
I also used the FishSens Technology SondeCAM to know precisely when to set the hook on these fish. It is crazy how many bluegills are actually down there, you can turn it any direction and see gills at all times. Since the water is dark there, sight fishing involves looking at the size of a bluegills lips more so than the fish itself. Having the SondeCAM down there really helps selecting for the best size.
A couple trips of quick limits up there and I was getting the urge to explore. Not that a I don't mind the good fishing. But there isn't any variability to it, it is a quick limit every time until the fish are gone. It is the perfect place for young kids or beginners though since it takes little effort and is guaranteed success. It is no sacred spot, so if you have children you are trying to introduce to the sport please don't hesitate to ask me about it.
It was time to try something different, I'd never fished any of the Grand River Bayous on the ice. But it was finally time and I was itching to cut some ice with the new auger blades I'd gotten from ClearH2O Tackle. This place was also pretty crowded, but the nice part was you didn't have to fish near anyone (we were a good 70 yards away from anyone else). I took the Humminbird ICE 45 and started popping holes. It was simple, catch what you could out of a hole and then move on. The grass was always greenest right when we popped a new hole. These fish were more of a challenge, you actually had to work them and they were biting ultra light. A Clam Maggot jig with spikes was the deal, and the more spikes you could cram on there the better. It honestly was sort of an interesting bite to me. I caught a ton of them by giving them a little shake and then just holding it above them. They would slowly swim up and eat it, but it definitely took some patience. One thing that was frustrating was there were fish literally everywhere. I live for finding that place that is so stacked with fish, you are catching them every 30 seconds. I will say this place didn't really set up well for that, typically deeper water is better for it. But I wasn't disappointed, I ended up with a limit of really solid gills in a couple hours. I will definitely be back.
It seems most of what I've been doing has been centering around ice fishing. Which I guess isn't that surprising because ice fishing is awesome. Nowhere was that more evident than the ClearH2O open house. Those guys in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana were serious about their ice fishing. Ice fishing might only happen a few months out of the year, but the people who love it are really passionate about it. It was a really cool event all around, for one all the good ice fishing stuff was there. There was also a ton of food. If you happen to like bass fishing tackle, deals, and free food, his spring open house will be worth the drive.
Everything about the show went well, except the drive to and from were white knuckle. But when I headed home it wasn't all the stuff on the shelves I walked away impressed with. It was all the ClearH2O pro staff guys there helping, the customers they knew by name, the obscure item they wouldn't make a dollar on but would check every possible way to get one in to make a customer happy. It was obvious people were being treated right and that was awesome to see. I was also impressed with the shipping department and all the work that went into getting orders out ASAP. I am definitely proud to be a part of that team. I've got to thank Darrin, the ClearH2O staff, and some of the local fisherman for their hospitality that weekend.
I've also gotten to spend time with family over Christmas. It has been bittersweet this year since Amanda's grandmother passed away a few days before Christmas. However she lived a great and long life and we celebrated that. We got to spend a wonderful Christmas Eve with the Hunt side and a great Christmas day with the Elliott's. There are too many highlights to list them all, but fried bluegills and lobster tails are up towards the top. On the very top is something I got from my father in law. Sometime 20 plus years ago he bought a part that came with a free shotgun (I wish I could find a deal like that). Anyway the shotgun has never been out of the box, much less assembled. It's an old Mossberg 500, which is nothing special as far as shotguns go. But sentimentally is one of the coolest things ever. On the Elliott side we have a lot of things like this so it was really cool to have one from the Hunt side and it has a fun story behind it.
That's all I've got for now, you can find me on the ice the rest of the winter. Hopefully I will be doing some waterfowl hunting too, we will see if we have any birds around for the 2 day late season!